Tangerang: Questions, Chapels, and Batman Saves The Day

The day started like any other, really – 3am fireworks
accompanied by my hotel room neighbor pounding on the wall shot me straight up
out of bed.  The call to prayer broadcast
for Ramadan reminded me that it wasn’t time for me yet, but instead of falling
back to sleep I started thinking about the day ahead.
As part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program, our
host school visit is designed to help us both help other teachers understand
American culture, while simultaneously soaking in their education system.  From our online look at MAN Insan Cendekia
Serpong school before we left America, it appeared to be a very strict, formal
boarding school.

 

 
As we waited for our 6:30 am pickup by an unknown driver, we
had plenty of time to get nervous.  Were we
wearing the right clothes?  Would we make
it through the day in accordance to the rituals of Ramadan?  Would the children speak enough English to
understand our presentation on the US and California?  Would the teachers be interested?
The school sits at the end of a long driveway and sprawls
over a large campus.  We were happy to be
greeted by our host teacher, Yuna, as well as nearly every adult that we ran
into.  Our first class began at 8:00, so
after a quick tour we entered our classroom to teach 10th grade English
students.  We were asked to remove our
shoes before entering the building – besides feeling like a fool for having the
only four-inch heels sitting on the steps, I felt awkward teaching
barefoot!  In Indonesia, students stay in
the room and the teacher moves each period.
It felt strange to have students watching me set up for the lesson, but
their eager smiles put us at ease rather quickly.

 

 

Using our Prezi about California, our schools and our
families created a great environment for discussion about what they know about
America, and what kinds of questions they would like us to answer.  We were shocked with their sophistication and
knowledge level – they wanted to know what Americans think of Muslims,
especially after 9/11, how can Indonesians get US college scholarships, what
were the causes of the Civil War, what are the differences between democrats
and republicans, how do Americans feel about the election and Barack
Obama.  Some of the more amusing ones were:
does the mafia really runs the country, what is the difference between British
and American accents, do we prefer bread or rice, and have I ever met Arnold
Schwarzenegger!  The students were
thrilled with the red, white and blue pencils and candies we gave them as a
parting gift, some even promising to save the wrapper to remember us.
After teaching we headed towards the teacher work room;
since the teachers are mobile here, they each have a desk in a large work space
with cubicles.  It’s a great idea!  We met the next English teacher we would be
working with, and began reading the story “The Chapel” she wanted us to prepare
a lesson on for the next day.  This
became our most challenging situation to date.
After realizing it was about a 13 year old girl who is raped, becomes
pregnant, her husband is killed, and the eventual rapist is revealed as her
white priest, we politely requested that we select another and chalked it up to
cultural differences.  We chose ‘Gift of
the Magi’, and then realized we’d be teaching about Christianity to
Muslims.  It works both ways.
It is evident that Indonesians are eager to learn English,
and their teachers excited to take advantage of our visit.  On the way to the van we were requested to
prepare lessons for two classes the next day, so we left with impending lesson
plans to complete before our night time activity – Batman.

 

The American dollar goes far in Indonesia – our lovely hotel is only $50/night, including breakfast, eight tickets to the movies, and the same for the adjacent water park.  Food is inexpensive as well – most of our meals have been under $5 each, and we’ve never been hungry.  Visiting the local movie theater was interesting – Indonesians have food service right to their assigned theater seats!  Popcorn, french fries or fish balls for all!
 

 

This was the hardest day so far.  We are so conscious about everything we do,
and try hard not to make any offensive errors as we navigate this unfamiliar
culture.  Not a day has gone by that I
haven’t felt like the ‘outsider’, and I’m again reminded of what our students
must experience as they come to the US to study.  By talking with the students I realize not
only how much they know about America, but also how much they have bought into
the media stereotypes that are often their source of information.  Yes, they have studied English and American
history in school, but today’s kids are learning more from the internet and social
media. Even in this private, Islamic boarding school they know about Harry
Potter, Hunger Games, Harvard, MIT and Washington DC, and that they should
study hard to earn the chance for education in the US.  Kids who cannot date or use Facebook know the
Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Twitter.
 The world really is
shrinking, and our best bet at understanding each other is to sit down, look
eye to eye and talk without fear of looking stupid or being misunderstood.  If we can come together for Batman with subtitles,
surely we can break down the stereotypes we have of each other, and make
progress towards becoming true global citizens.
Hey Batman, can you give us a hand?

 

primark

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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